Levoca is a town in the Presov Region of eastern Slovakia with a population of 14,600. The town has a historic center with a well preserved town wall, a Renaissance church with the highest wooden altar in the world, carved by Master Pavol of Levoca, and many other Renaissance buildings. On 28 June 2009, Levoca was added by UNESCO to its World Heritage List History : Levoca is located in the historical region of Spis, which was inhabited as early as the Stone Age. In the 11th century, this region was conquered and, subsequently, became part of the Kingdom of Hungary and remained such until 1918. After the Mongol invasions of 1241/1242, the area was also settled by Germans. The town became the capital of the Association of Spis Germans, with a form of self-rule within the Kingdom of Hungary. The oldest written reference to the city of Levoca dates back to 1249. In 1317, Levoca (at that time generally known by the German name of Leutschau – see Chronology below for lists of changing names) received the status of a royal town. In 1321 a wide storing right was granted enticing merchants, craftsmen and mine owners to settle in this town.
In the 15th century the town, located on an intersection of trade routes between Poland and Hungary, became a rich center of commerce. It exported iron, copper, furs, leather, corn, and wine. At the same time the town became an important cultural centre. The English humanist Leonard Cox taught around 1520 in a school in Levoca. The bookseller Brewer from Wittenberg transformed his bookstore in a prolific printing plant, that lasted for 150 years. Finally, one of the best-known medieval woodcarvers Master Pavol of Levoca settled here. The town kept this cultural and economic status until the end of 16th century, in spite of two damaging fires : the first in 1550 destroyed nearly all of the Gothic architecture and another in 1599. In this period of prosperity several churches were built and the town had a school, library, pharmacy, and physicians. There was a printing press as early as 1624. Levoca was a center of the Protestant Reformation. The town started to decline during the anti-Habsburg uprisings in the 17th century.
In a lurid sequence of events in 1700, the mayor of the town was accidentally wounded by a local nobleman during a hunt, generating a series of revenge attacks, finally resulting in the murder of the mayor, Karol Kramler, a Saxon magistrate. The mayor’s arm was then cut off, embalmed, and preserved in the town hall as a call to further revenge. This became the subject of a Hungarian novel about the town, The Black City, by the writer Kalman Mikszath. The economic importance of the town was further diminished in 1871 when the important new Kosice–Bohumin Railway was built just 8 km (5.0 mi) to the south, bypassing Levoca and going through the nearby town of Spisska Nova Ves. Later, in 1892, only a spur line was built from Spisska Nova Ves railway station to Levoca.
After the Treaty of Trianon and the dismantling of the Kingdom of Hungary, the city became part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia and its Slovak name Levoca was formally adopted. Later, during World War II, under the auspices of the First Slovak Republic, 981 local Jews were deported from the town to concentration camps. On 27 January 1945 Levoca was taken by Soviet troops of the 18th Army. On July 3, 1995 Levoca was visited by Pope John Paul II. He celebrated a mass for 650,000 celebrants at the traditional pilgrim site of Marianska hora, a hill about 2 kilometres (1 mile) north of Levoca with a spectacular view of the town.
Attractions : Renaissance old town , Fortifications and the two surviving gates
St. James Cathedral, with world’s biggest wooden altar, a marvelous masterpiece of Master Paul of Levoca. The entire interior of St.Jakobs is dazzling to the eye. Anyone who has an interest in architecture, art or even a passing interest in history will enjoy a visit, marvelling at the quality of the restored carvings of Master Pawel’s school, the 14th century murals, the stained glass windows that sparkle in the sunlight and the centuries old pews, worn and moulded by the previous inhabitants of Levoca. Visitors from England should take note of the statue of St.George slaying the dragon. For tourist purposes, tickets for access must be bought in the shop located opposite the main door of the Cathedral. Guided tours are provided, and books, postcards etc. are available inside.
Renaissance town hall The building of the Town Hall is attached to a Renaissance tower, which was built between 1656 – 1661 as a bell-tower. There are some expositions of the Spis Museum on the first floor of the Town Hall. Its Session Hall is used for representation purposes.
the town theater The building of the theater is situated in the impressive surroundings of the monuments in the west of the square. The reopened Town Theater offers a wide variety of theater performances, cultural events, but also facilities for organizing congresses, seminars and various social events.
Medieval cage of shame It comes from the 16th century and it was used for punishing for minor delinquencies. Its original place was where the Protestant Church is situated now. Later, it belonged to the Probstner family and it was placed in their park, which was situated where the hospital is now. The Cage was given to the town by the Probstner family in 1933 and since then, it has been situated in front of the Town Hall.
Neo-Classical Lutheran Church – The Lutheran church is mostly empty these days, the congregation for the most part expelled in 1948 due to their ethnic German origin. These days, no more than seventy individuals frequent religious services. When the church is open for visits, a very friendly lady meets you at the main door, and leaflets describing the history of the church are available in Slovak, English, German, and Russian. Walking around the chapel, take note of the grand organ, a gift from the Lutheran community of Berlin from the early 1900’s. Their is also a memorial to the inhabitants of Levoca who fell in World War One. Lastly, visitors will notice damp in the building, and it’s upkeep is a major strain on the community, so a donation, or the purchase of a few postcards on this otherwise free attraction are gratefully accepted.
Baroque Church of the Holy Spirit
Gothic Cloister Located in the Minorite/s Monastery.
Master Paul’s House Where nowadays his museum is located.
The Large Provincial House Between 1806 – 1826, an architect from the city of Eger, Anton Povolny, built a grandiose administration building, the Large Provincial House, as the seat of the town’s administration. He adjusted its Classicistic style to Levoca’s Renaissance character by emphasizing the horizontal lines. The House is considered the most beautiful Provincial House all over former Hungary. Today, it is reconstructed and it is a seat of the administration.
Basilica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Located above the town on the hill with offering spectacular views over the town and countryside
The Spis Museum Dedicated to ethnology and history of the Spis region. Some sculptures of Master Paul are also on display
Access : Coordinates : 49.025278, 20.588056 / By air : The closest international airports to Levoca are at Poprad and Kosice. Poprad and Kosice are approximately 25 and 75 minutes by road from Levoca respectively. The nearby airport of Poprad is presently (2015) served by scheduled flights to and from London, Gdansk and Warsaw.
By rail : The town has only a 1 small railway station of its own, with occasional trains to the nearby town of Spisska Nova Ves (about ten minutes by road). Spisska Nova Ves is however served by regular trains from Bratislava (about 5 hours). Kosice, from which there are regular buses to Levoca and trains to Spisska Nova Ves ,(about 50 minutes) is also served by rail from Budapest (about 3.5 hours). An excellent overnight train service runs to Poprad from Prague (and back) – this also transports passengers cars, saving a significant amount of driving. It is essential to book in advance, especially during the summer and winter tourist seasons.
By bus/road : Levoca is linked by regular buses to Poprad, Kosice and Presov.There are bus services to Poprad from Krakow in Poland. Poprad is also served by international bus routes from Western Europe,including London and Brussels. Levoca is close to the E50 European highway and can therefore be accessed by road via Poprad from the west or via Kosice from the east.